The Project for the Innocent at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles was awarded a $250,000 grant from the Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs that will fund the project's initiatives for two years. The project, founded by student volunteers and part of Loyola's Alarcón Advocacy Center, pursues claims of innocence on behalf of those who have been wrongfully convicted. Launched in 2008, the project made national headlines in 2011 for its work to secure the release of its first client, who served 17 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.
"I am so grateful to the Justice Department for its support," said Laurie Levenson, David W. Burcham Professor of Ethical Advocacy and director of the project. "The attorney general has made an incredible commitment toward pursuing justice. All of us at the Loyola Project for the Innocent will work our hearts out to ensure these cases are handled professionally and expeditiously."
Students participating in the project review claims of innocence under the supervision of Professor Levenson and Adam Grant, senior fellow at the project. The project receives dozens of queries weekly from those who allege they have been wrongfully convicted, and its active case log continues to grow.
The project found success with its first client, Obie Anthony, a man wrongfully convicted of murder in 1994. Project students began researching Anthony's potential claims of innocence in 2008, interviewing witnesses and conducting legal research. Working in conjunction with the Northern California Innocence Project, Loyola students participated in the drafting of Anthony's petition for habeas corpus and his 2011 evidentiary hearing. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kelvin Filer granted Anthony's petition and ordered him released.
The Project for the Innocent plays an integral role in Loyola's subject-matter Concentrations, which give students the opportunity to focus in an area of law. It satisfies the intensive, practical experience requirement for completion of the Criminal Justice Concentration. The project is one of several clinics that comprise the Alarcón Advocacy Center, which was inaugurated in September 2011 during a ceremony featuring speeches by the Hon. Arthur L. Alarcón, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and the Hon. Anthony M. Kennedy, associate justice, U.S. Supreme Court. Related clinics include the Capital Habeas Litigation Clinic, in which students pursue habeas claims with the office of the Federal Public Defender for the Central District of California. Students' work includes interviewing witnesses, assisting with hearings, drafting pleadings and writing claims.